Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Blanca Moreno-Dodson: "The move from the World Bank to the UN is a natural evolution for the CMI"

Written by Interview by Frédéric Dubessy on Wednesday, September 22nd 2021 à 14:35 | Read 694 times

The director of the Centre for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), Blanca Moreno-Dodson, tells exclusively about her move from the World Bank to the United Nations, and her new mandate: the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 on partnerships in the Mediterranean. The CMI remains and will remain based in Marseille.

Blanca Moreno-Dodson moves from the World Bank to the UN, but remains director of the CMI in Marseille (photo: F.Dubessy)
Blanca Moreno-Dodson moves from the World Bank to the UN, but remains director of the CMI in Marseille (photo: F.Dubessy) In October 2009, the World Bank created the Centre for Mediterranean Integration in Marseille. For what purpose?

Blanca Moreno-Dodson: Before 2009, the World Bank had already opened a small office in Marseille as a branch of its institute for capacity building in the Mediterranean region. In this region, the traditional activities of the World Bank at the time, loans, studies..., were not sufficient to exploit the potential of the region. It was therefore necessary to have a partnership that would contribute to a better technical dialogue and a better absorption of funding.
This initiative subsequently gained its independence. The Centre acquired its own governance, under the name of Centre for Mediterranean Integration, in partnership with the French government and the city of Marseille, which agreed to host us, as well as other partners. They gradually joined the founding members: the World Bank, the French government and the European Investment Bank. Then other European countries joined in. The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region then became a member and the last two to join us were, in 2020, Spain and UN Habitat. The CMI's mission has always been to contribute to the integration of all the Mediterranean countries and to reduce the development gap between the North and the South of the Mediterranean.

The Two Shores Dialogue led by the CMI

How has the CMI evolved over the last ten years?
B.M-D.: The Centre has moved from sharing and disseminating knowledge to creating and providing that knowledge. So it has become more technical, especially in the last three to four years, by offering its own studies.
The second development has been the incubation of regional investment projects. This was reinforced in November 2019, when the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves le Drian, entrusted the CMI with hosting the digital platform of the Dialogue of the Two Shores, which links civil society project leaders, financiers and investors. It will also be used to accompany the second stage of the Dialogue of the Two Shores that President Emmanuel Macron will launch in Marseille with the Mediterranean Week in February 2022 (Editor's note: the 5th edition of the Mediterranean of the Future, organised by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region, should also take place at the same time according to our information).

Why this handover from the World Bank to the UN on 1 July 2021?
B.M-D.: This is a natural evolution for the Centre. With its new functions of knowledge production, technical advice, project incubation and its new role given by the French government, the CMI is now linked to the projects.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), to which we are now attached, is perfectly suited to our current activities. It is no longer the Centre of 2009, so we needed an institutional structure that would allow us to continue to grow, to have more impact. On top of that, regional partnership is one of the goals of sustainable development. So the United Nations was very interested, especially in the fact that we were located in Marseilles, a Mediterranean city and closer to the reality of the countries of the Mediterranean Basin. The transfer was well received by all CMI members.


The World Bank remains an active member

What does this mean in terms of governance, financing, strategy and budget?
B.M-D.: It is the same governance, except for two important changes. The first is that the chair of the Supervisory Board will no longer be held exclusively by the World Bank, as it has been since the creation of the CMI. It will change every three years. The Kingdom of Morocco was elected for the first three-year term. In June 2024, another member will take over.
The second change concerns the entry of UNOPS as a member of the Supervisory Board, with a representative status, but without voting rights.
So the World Bank is still a member of the CMI?
B.M-D.: Yes, the World Bank will remain an active member of the Centre. At the strategic level, it will continue to contribute to the Centre's major orientations, like all the other members, but no longer as chair. At the operational level, it will maintain its financial support, as well as the strong technical partnerships built over the years.
The team also remains the same?
B.M-D.: The core team of fifteen people remains the same, except that we are taking on the status of UN officials and consultants instead of that of the World Bank. Some people have left and we will be recruiting to prepare our new strategy.

The CMI anchored in Marseille

The CMI's new strategy will be unveiled in early 2022 (photo: F.Dubessy)
The CMI's new strategy will be unveiled in early 2022 (photo: F.Dubessy)
What exactly will the CMI's new strategy be?
B.M-D.: We are now charged by the UN with implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, which concerns partnerships in the Mediterranean. Access to drinking water and access to education, for example, are MDGs that are already in our programmes.
Two independent consultants chosen by the members will carry out an evaluation of our work over the last three years. In two months' time, based on these results and the ongoing discussions among members, we will prepare a new three-year strategy. I believe that the main lines of the Centre should be maintained for the most part. However, they will probably be revised, adapted to fit well with the MDG 17, or even consolidated. By the beginning of 2022, we will unveil our new strategy.
Will the arrival of the UN change your funding?
The UN will open the doors to other funding and we also have the possibility of creating consortia with technical partners. We are still at the beginning of this search for additional funding. But we are keeping the traditional ones from the World Bank, the French government, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region and the City of Marseille.

What will the operating budget be? And will it increase?
B.M-D.: This year's budget will be very similar to last year's, about $2.3m (€2m) per year. The new sources of funding will no doubt make it evolve.
Four years ago, according to our information, the presence of the CMI's headquarters in Marseille was called into question. Have you received assurances from the UN that it will remain in Marseille?
B.M-D.: Absolutely! We have an agreement with UNOPS for the headquarters to remain in Marseille. It is true that four years ago, two proposals, one from Tunisia and the other from Italy, were studied to transfer the CMI to one of these countries. At the time, the members decided to stay in Marseille. This was not questioned by the UN. In fact, we have left the Villa Valmer and moved to new offices in the Tour La Marseillaise.
What are the CMI's next major events?
B.M-D.: In December 2021 in Marseille, we will be organising a regional forum on water dedicated to climate change. We will present the results of a CMI study conducted with several North African countries and financed by the UK.
Before that, we will participate in two other conferences on the same theme in Marseille in October and in Malta in early December. Then other meetings such as the Energy and Climate Change Forum in Marseille before the end of the year and Union for the Mediterranean events in Madrid and Barcelona in November. So our calendar is already quite busy for the next three months.


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